Okay, I’ve been reading a lot about the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. It seems that the death of 20 children, age 6-7, along with their teachers has finally brought the US public to a tipping point on the question of gun control. The NRA (National Rifle Association) has until now managed to stir up a powerful lobby whenever these mass shootings take place and the question about stricter gun controls arises.
In the immediate aftermath of the shootings the NRA kept its head down and out of the limelight. Not a bad move for an organization which encourages the proliferation of guns in American society. Guns are deeply entrenched in American culture, 88 out of every 100 Americans own at least one gun. As we learned in Newtown, some own small arsenal of often powerful weapons.
The NRA keeping it’s silence didn’t last long enough on this. On Friday their CEO, Wayne LaPierre, called for armed guards in every school. In his world, he thinks bad guys with guns can be stopped by good guys with guns. So, let’s just arm a few thousand more people. When you start expanding the number of people with guns, you create another pool of people who could potentially become ‘the bad guy with guns’.
I’ll give him credit for one thing, he has a point about the level of violence on TV and in video games that young people access. That does need to be addressed in some manner, but he needed to also admit, the proliferation of weapons of all types in the culture has contributed to the escalating level of violence. One feeds the other.
The way society deals with mental health issues also needs to be addressed. There are no simple answers how to do this but it is becoming increasingly clear that the current ways are not working and that is not just an American issue. In the name of human rights and dignity, not to mention cost savings, the asylums of old were closed turning many mentally ill people into the streets or left them dependent on others.
The vast majority of these individuals are no harm to anyone but themselves. They manage to find their way through life at some level without being a threat to anyone. Then there are those, like Adam Lanza, who are a time bomb waiting to happen. In his case, his mother contributed to not only her death but 26 other innocents through her gun ownership. It wasn’t intentional on her part, her desire to teach her mentally ill son ‘responsibility’ through gun use turned out to be tragically irresponsible.
So what is the answer(s)? They are many and varied. The one guarantee for failure is to not even try to arrive at a solution. The surviving children of Newtown (and everywhere else) deserve to feel safe without being under the shadow of more guns to remind them how their friends died.